James Bond theme song trivia

Tina Turner performing James Bond them song

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted November 17, 2021


When it comes to iconic movie theme songs, nobody does it better than James Bond. But there is a lot more than meets the (golden) eye.  

James Bond theme songs have become as synonymous with the James Bond franchise as Aston Martins and martinis. While the ‘official’ James Bond Theme song has become an acclaimed piece of music alongside the notorious ‘gun barrel’ in the title credits of Bond films, each film has also been immortalised in song. 

From Shirley Bassey’s whimsical vocals on Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever to Billie Eilish’s latest take in 2021’s No Time To Die,  just like the films, every James Bond theme song has a story. 


Fun facts about James Bond theme songs

James Bond Theme - Monty Norman and John Barry

Arguably the most famous of them all, the James Bond Theme is the signature music that appears in every Bond film during the iconic ‘gun barrel’ scene, after its introduction in 1962’s Dr. No.

Written by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry, it has since become one of the most recognisable pieces of cinema music and Bond themes. Norman later took The Sunday Times to court in 2001 after the newspaper stated that Barry was the composer – and he won. 

So remember, the writer’s name is Norman. Monty Norman.

No Time To Die - Billie Eilish

The most recent Bond theme song, No Time To Die, was recorded by Billie Eilish and her brother/music partner Finneas O’Connell, and was allegedly recorded in her bedroom studio. As the youngest-ever artist to record a Bond theme song (she was 18 at the time), the song got to #1 on the UK charts. It has since had over a million streams and has gone platinum in several countries worldwide. The song is released alongside Daniel Craig's swan song in his final iteration as James Bond 007, released in cinemas on November 11.

 

License To Kill - Gladys Knight

R n’ B legend Gladys Knight sang the theme song for 1989’s License to Kill. Despite the song and film title, Knight was not comfortable with the idea of singing the word ‘kill’ or imagery that depicted violence. Funnily enough, if you listen closely, it sounds as if she is saying License to ‘kit’, ‘kilt’ or ‘kin’ rather than kill! 

Somehow, James Bond – License to Kilt, just doesn’t have the same ring to it. 

Die Another Day - Madonna

Funnily enough, despite numerous celebrities signing up for theme songs, only one singer had a cameo in the film. In 2002’s Die Another Day, pop star Madonna sang both the title track of the same name and appeared as a fencing instructor named Verity. 

Now that’s a name to die for. 

 

Live And Let Die - Wings

Based on the 1973 Bond film of the same name, Wings’ Live and Let Die was the first Bond theme song to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It reached #2 on the US Billboard charts, and producer George Martin took home the Grammy for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists. 

The song continues to live on at Paul McCartney’s live shows, while the Guns N’ Roses 1997 cover was also nominated for a Grammy. 

You know what they say about songs – they only live twice.

Skyfall - Adele

One of the most successful Bond theme songs of recent memory, Adele’s Skyfall (2012) was not only one of the most commercially successful, selling over seven million copies (and the first Bond song to sell over a million digital copies), but was the first Bond theme song to win the Academy Award for Best Song. Skyfall also took home a Golden Globe and Grammy for Best Original Song, as well as a Globe for Best Song For Visual Media. 

Not bad for a song that apparently only took Adele 10 minutes to write! 

 

GoldenEye - Tina Turner

The iconic Tina Turner sang the theme song for 1995’s GoldenEye. The song was actually written by Bono and The Edge from U2, who wanted to become involved after learning Turner would be doing the vocals. 

The song has since been covered countless times, including by Nicole Sherzinger on the popular GoldenEye007 video game. 

Like Bond, the song appears to have a nasty habit of surviving. 

SpectreWriting's On The Wall - Sam Smith

For 2015’s Spectre, the song took on a different title, with Sam Smith's Writing's on the Wall. The song became the first-ever Bond song to reach #1 in the UK and took home the Academy Award for Best Original Song. 

We hope Smith enjoyed a martini shaken not stirred that night.

 

Goldfinger,  Diamonds Are Forever, Moonraker - Shirley Bassey

Known as the unofficial Queen of Bond, Welsh singer Shirley Bassey is still the only singer who has sung more than one Bond theme song. Bassey provided the title tracks for 1964’s Goldfinger, 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, (which frequently rates highly on ‘Best Bond theme songs’ lists), and 1979’s Moonraker.

She was also asked to sing the theme song for Thunderball, although this was replaced at the last minute by Tom Jones – although the song, Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, is still used in a scene at the aptly titled Kiss Kiss Club. 

Still, being asked to sing an iconic Bond song more than once is no mean feat – seems producers must like to do some things the old-fashioned way. 

Thunderball - Tom Jones

During the recording of the theme song for 1965’s Thunderball, singer Tom Jones was required to sing the title of the song repeatedly at high range. Unfortunately for Jones, he held the last note of the song for so long, he ended up passing out in the recording studio! This meant there was only one ever recording of the song – the one we hear today is all there is, folks!

 

A View To Kill - Duran Duran

Even though it may not be the first Bond song to come to peoples’ minds, Duran Duran’s theme song for the 1985 Bond flick A View To Kill is still the only Bond song to have reached #1 on the US charts, and it was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. 

The Spy Who Loved MeNobody Does It Better - Carly Simon

Carly Simon’s iconic song for The Spy Who Loved Me was the first Bond theme song not to have the same title as the film since Dr. No (although the title is woven into the lyrics). The track, Nobody Does It Better, wasn’t originally meant to be a Bond theme song, however, producers caught wind and loved it, and so the song was reworked to become more 007-friendly. It went on the reach #1 in three countries and was nominated for Best Song at the Grammys, Globes, and Oscars. 

At #1, it seems nobody could do it better.

 

Video thumbail image by Getty. All videos provided by artists on YouTube. 

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